It was great to be at the launch of Fertility Fest 2018 this morning, the fertility arts festival organised by Jessica Hepburn and Gabby Vautier-Farr. We were treated to inspiring words from Jessica and Gabby and an exciting extract of the sort of thing we can expect to enjoy during the festival. You can see the line-up for this year’s festival on the website – www.fertilityfest.com and you can buy tickets now too. I’m already really excited about this year’s festival – there are some amazing artists and expert and fascinating discussions. Make sure you get a ticket before they all sell out – and I hope to see you there!
I went to watch the London Marathon yesterday which I do every year as it passes near where I live. It’s always inspiring to see so many people who are doing such a remarkable thing to raise money for charities, often those close to their own hearts. This year, I was particularly hoping to cheer on Jessica Hepburn who was running to raise funds for Fertility Network UK – although I missed her in the crowds, I was able to keep track of her amazing run on the Marathon app. Jessica, who does so much fantastic work in this field, did so well and if you haven’t already, there is still time to sponsor her. The website for donating has been very busy so if you don’t get through right away, do go back later!
Running a marathon really is a huge feat, and so I wanted to congratulate not just the brilliant Jessica, but also my other marathon-running friends – running inspiration Sarah from Greenwich Runners, Liz and Patrick who crossed the finishing line together and the incredibly super speedy Dr Kate – well done to you all!
It’s International Women’s Day and a good opportunity to celebrate some of the things that women do for one another in fertility. I was thinking of some of the women who have done and continue to do so much to change things in this field, and wanted to thank a few of them.
The first is Clare Lewis-Jones, the former Chief Executive of the charity Fertility Network UK. Clare led the charity as it grew in size and influence and was a presence at every fertility conference and event, reminding professionals of the need to think about the patient perspective. She championed the cause and helped to change the way people think about fertility, removing some of the stigma and encouraging us to talk, in part by being open about her own fertility story. Clare was awarded a much-deserved MBE for her work and was a real inspiration to me.
The second is Jessica Hepburn, who wrote a book about her own experiences of fertility problems and treatment and who went on to set up Fertility Fest. Jessica is an amazingly inspiring person who has swum the Channel and is now running the marathon to raise funds to help to support other people going through fertility problems. She has spoken widely and openly about how it feels to have unsuccessful treatment and has enabled many other people to talk about this.
My third is someone you may not know. She is called Diane and she runs the support line at Fertility Network UK. Diane is a nurse and has been answering calls and responding to emails from fertility patients for as long as I can remember. Every time I’ve suggested that anyone might benefit from giving her a call, they’ve been really touched by her kindness and helped so much by the support and advice she has offered. Diane has been at hand for hundreds of fertility patients on their journeys and is a real inspiration with her positivity and generosity of spirit.
These are just three women – there are so many more I can think of out there who are doing remarkable work to support and encourage, to inspire and inform. There are also all those women who support one another every day just by being there for each other, by showing their understanding and offering words of encouragement to their fellow fertility patients. The importance of that support should never be underestimated. Happy International Women’s Day to you all!
Did you know that the Fertility Show will be in Manchester next month? The event which has taken place at London’s Olympia for many years is spreading its wings and will be held at Manchester’s Central Convention Complex in Windmill St on March 25 and 26.
There will be a wide range of speakers including Allan Pacey, Geeta Nargund, British Fertility Society Chair Adam Balen, Charles Kingsland, Simon Fishel, John Parsons, Rachel Cutting, Jane Stewart, Raj Mathur, Tony Rutherford and Zita West. The HFEA’s Juliet Tizzard will also be speaking as well as specialist lawyer Natalie Gamble and Fertility Fest Director Jessica Hepburn. The sessions will cover a wide range of topics suitable to those just starting out and wanting to know more about their fertility through to more detailed sessions on specific fertility problems and treatment options. There will also be a separate platform for Q and A sessions and a wide range of exhibitors.
Tickets are now on sale here so do come along if you are nearby – I will be there too speaking about how to choose a fertility clinic and will be on the Fertility Network UK stand so come and say hello!
If you read this blog at all regularly, it won’t have escaped you that I am a huge fan of the brilliant Jessica Hepburn, Director of Fertility Fest and author of The Pursuit of Motherhood. You may have followed her Channel Swim to raise funds for Fertility Network UK, and now she’s doing it again with the London Marathon.
Jessica has written a fantastic blog post about this and if you want to read more about what she’s doing and why, you can find it here. There’s also a link to her JustGiving page where you can make a donation to support her through her 26 miles. For me, 10k feels like a marathon, and I think it’s a wonderful thing that she is doing – so support her if you possibly can and help to make it even more worthwhile.
If you are in London, you may be interested in an exhibition of photographs at the National Portrait Gallery – the Taylor Wessing photographic Portrait Prize 2016.
Two of the photos were taken by Katie Barlow, a documentary film-maker who is currently working on a fantastic documentary about not having children which features author and Director of Fertility Fest, Jessica Hepburn, who many of you will be familiar with and Gateway Women’s Jody Day. Katie has spent the last year documenting the refugee crisis, and you can see two of her photos in the National Portrait Gallery exhibition. You can read what Katie wrote about this here – and the exhibition is definitely worth a visit!
It’s next weekend and if you haven’t booked your tickets yet, there is still time. It’s true that the Fertility Show can feel a bit like some kind of Ideal Home Exhibition for fertility problems, but it’s well worth visiting for the amazing seminar programme alone where you can catch many of the country’s leading experts and benefit from their wisdom and advice.
Talks on Saturday include:
- How To Get Pregnant (and to have the best possible pregnancy) with Zita West
- Innovations in embryo selection. Do they really make a difference? with Rachel Cutting MBE, Chair 2010-2014 of the Association of Clinical Embryologists and Principal Embryologist at Jessop Fertility in Sheffield
- Stress and its impact on fertility with Jacky Boivin, Professor of Health Psychology at Cardiff University and Lead Researcher at Cardiff Fertility Studies
- Surrogacy in the UK with Sarah Templeman, Nurse Manager at Herts & Essex Fertility Centre and Helen Prosser from Brilliant Beginnings
- Natural Cycle and Mild IVF – fertility treatment without the drugs? with Professor Geeta Nargund, Medical Director of CREATE Fertility
- The Basics. What you need to know to get pregnant and how to prepare for pregnancy with George Christopoulos, Subspecialty Registrar in Reproductive Medicine and Surgery at IVF Hammersmith
- Next Generation IVF? with Professor Simon Fishel, CEO of CARE Fertility
- Dealing with recurrent miscarriage with Dr Vidya Seshadri, Consultant Gynaecologist & Specialist in Reproductive Medicine at The Centre for Reproductive & Genetic Health
- Reduced ovarian reserve: Is anyone too difficult to treat? with Sam Abdalla, Director of the Lister Fertility Clinic
- Factors to consider when choosing a fertility clinic with me! (Kate Brian, journalist, broadcaster, author of bestselling The Complete Guide to IVF, mother of two IVF children, Lead of Women’s Voices at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and London Representative for Infertility Network UK)
- Going abroad for treatment? Question time featuring 2 overseas clinics with Dr Bruce Shapiro of The Fertility Center of Las Vegas and Dr Natalia Szlarb from IVF Spain.
- Counselling through infertility with Tracey Sainsbury, member of the British Infertility Counselling Association.
- Boost fertility and prevent recurrent miscarriage with nutrition with Dr Marilyn Glenville
- Immunology – potentially hazardous treatment or your best chance of success? with Mr Mohammed Mahmoud, Consultant in Reproductive Medicine of The Newlife Fertility Clinic and Siobhan Quenby, Professor of Obstetrics and Director of the Biomedical Research Unit in Reproductive Health at the University of Warwick.
- Improving the odds of IVF working for you with Yacoub Khalaf, Consultant Gynaecologist and Medical Director of the Assisted Conception Unit at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS
- Coping Strategies with Wendy Martin, specialist fertility counsellor with Bristol Centre for Reproductive Medicine NHS
- Testing your fertility and the value of your ovarian reserve with James Nicopoullos, Consultant Gynaecologist at the Lister Fertility Clinic.
- Freeing your mind to improve fertility with Russell Davis, Cognitive Hypnotherapist.
- Dealing with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) with Adam Balen, Professor of Reproductive Medicine and Surgery at Leeds NHS Centre for Reproductive Medicine and Chairman of the British Fertility Society.
- Issues for families created with donors with DC Network founding member Olivia Montuschi.
- What men need to know about their fertility – testing it, boosting it, treating it with Allan Pacey, Professor of Andrology at the University of Sheffield and former Chairman of the British Fertility Society.
- Complementary Therapies – can they boost your fertility? with Dr Gillian Lockwood, Medical Director of Midland Fertility Services and ethics spokesperson for the British Fertility Society, Andrew Loosely who practices herbal medicine and Barbara Scott, chair of the Association of Reproductive Reflexologists.
- Fertility treatment for older women with Tarek El-Toukhy, Consultant in Reproductive Medicine and Surgery at Guy’s and St. Thomas’ Hospital.
- How to keep costs down – do you really need those add-ons? with Dr, John Parsons, part of the team that established the first IVF pregnancy to deliver at the Hammersmith hospital.
- Sperm and egg donors from the UK with Laura Witjens, egg donor and former CEO of the National Gamete Donation Trust, and Venessa Smith, Donor Services Co-ordinator from the London Women’s Clinic.
- Can acupuncture improve fertility? with Michael Dooley, Medical Director of Poundbury Fertility and Emma Cannon, acupuncturist.
- The arguments for travelling to the USA vs Portugal vs Norway with Dr Angeline Beltsos of Vios Fertility Institute, Dr Vladimiro of Ferticentro and Dr Jon Hausken from Norwegian Klinikk Hausken.
- Steps to choosing the right adoption agency with First4Adoption’s Gemma Gordon-Johnson.
- Travelling to the USA for egg donor treatment – the patient’s perspective and the clinic that treated them with Sarah Esdaile and her partner who had treatment in the USA and Dr Michael Levy, Director of the Donor egg programme at Shady Grove Clinic.
- A patient’s experience of the fertility rollercoaster and what to expect with Jessica Hepburn, trustee at Infertility Network UK and author of The Pursuit of Motherhood.
- Why should I give it another go? with Tim Child, Associate Professor and Subspecialist in Reproductive Medicine, University of Oxford and Honorary Consultant Gynaecologist, John Radcliffe Hospital.
- Planning Treatment abroad? The arguments for travelling to Greece vs Spain vs Russia with Dr. Dimitrios Dovas of The NewLife IVF Centre in Greece, Dr Ramon Aurell, IVF Unit Medical Director of Hospital Quirón Barcelona and Dr Yulia Gurtovaya, a consultant at West Middlesex University Hospital who speaks on behalf of Russian IVF clinic CRM MAMA.
- Single women and lesbian couples – options for conceiving with Dr Raúl Olivares, Medical Director of Barcelona IVF.
- An overview of the common causes of infertility and the main approaches to treatment with Kamal Ojha, Medical Director of Concept Fertility and Honorary Senior Lecturer at St George’s Hospital.
- Fertility treatment for older women with Dimitrios Nikolaou, Consultant Gynaecologist, lead clinician at Chelsea and Westminster NHS Hospital’s Assisted Conception Unit and Medical Director of Fertility for Life.
- Options for adoption with Jan Fishwick, CEO of PACT
- Unknown donor vs known donor vs co-parenting with fertility lawyer Natalie Gamble and Erika Tranfield of Pride Angel.
- What to think about before going abroad for treatment with Ben Saer, who with his wife Becky had successful fertility treatment in the Czech Republic, Dimitris Kavakas of Embryolab based in Thessaloniki and Dr Carlos Doscouto of Spanish IVF clinic Women’s Health Dexeus.
- Dealing with and treating, endometriosis with Haitham Hamoda, Consultant Gynaecologist in reproductive medicine and surgery at King’s College Hospital.
- Top Ten ways to cope with infertility with Anya Sizer, rregional organiser at Fertility Network UK.
- Surrogacy arrangements with Helen Prosser from non-profit UK surrogacy agency Brilliant Beginnings and Natalie Gamble, campaigner and founder of leading fertility law firm Natalie Gamble Associates.
- Single woman in your 30s or 40s? Thinking about having a baby on your own? with Caroline Spencer, trustee for the Donor Conception Network.
- New technologies in IVF with Lucy Richardson, Senior Embryologist at the UK’s Herts & Essex Fertility Centre and Dr Elizabeth Barbieri from US-based Oregon Reproductive Medicine.
- Getting your head around treatments, clinics and statistics with Juliet Tizzard, Director of Strategy and Corporate Affairs at the HFEA
- .Men Matter Too with fertility Counsellor Anthony Ryb.
- Fertility treatment on the NHS? with Anil Gudi and Amit Shah, Consultant Gynaecologists who run the NHS fertility service at the Homerton Fertility Centre in East London.
- Nutrition to help with PCOS, endometriosis and fibroids with Dr Marilyn Glenville.
- How to deal with the diagnosis of unexplained infertility with Dr Jane Stewart, Consultant in Reproductive Medicine at the Newcastle Fertility Centre.
- How to keep costs down – do you really need those add-ons? with Yacoub Khalaf, Medical Director of the Assisted Conception Unit at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS.
- Overseas egg donors. Who are they and how are they chosen? with Dr Israel Ortega of IVI Madrid in Spain and Nancy Block of Fertility Source Companies in the US explain.
As you can see, there is something here for everyone and having access to so many experts under one roof presents a unique opportunity to learn more about fertility and the treatments which may help. You can buy tickets from the website www.fertilityshow.co.uk
If you are experiencing fertility problems and feeling lonely and isolated, I am sure you will find this video will resonate with you. The video is part of Fertility Network UK’s #HiddenFaces campaign for National Fertility Awareness Week and has been generating a lot of positive responses from people who know what it’s like to live with fertility problems. It was made by Jessica Hepburn, who is a trustee of the charity and an author – she writes a blog called after her book – The Pursuit of Motherhood – which is also worth looking at.
Jessica is an amazing woman who has swum the Channel to raise funds for Fertility Network UK and she is the brains behind the wonderful Fertility Fest which some of you may have been fortunate enough to attend in London or Birmingham earlier this year.
Thank you Jessica on behalf of everyone who knows what it is like not to be able to conceive, thank you for talking about something so personal and difficult, thank you for your courage and warmth and for all you do to raise awareness of something so many people find too difficult to talk about x
This year’s Fertility Show will take place at London’s Olympia on November 5 and 6. If you haven’t been before, it is certainly worth considering a visit as you will find many of the country’s leading experts under one roof offering a wide range of talks on every aspect of fertility over the two day show. There are also more than 100 exhibitors from clinics around the world as well as advice groups, charities, acupuncturists, diet, nutritional & lifestyle advisors and many others.
You will find something for you in the seminar programme and speakers include Professor Adam Balen, Professor Allan Pacey, Yacoub Khalaf, Professor Geeta Nargund, Zita West, Marilyn Glenville, Emma Cannon, Jessica Hepburn and many more.
Tickets are on sale now, and there will be another Fertility Show in Manchester in March if you can’t make this one – details can be found at www.fertilityshow.co.uk
I was in Birmingham yesterday for the first ever Fertility Fest which was a truly amazing day. Jessica Hepburn and Gabby Vautier put together the festival and had worked tirelessly to create something which managed to be moving, interesting, emotional, inspiring, uplifting, thought-provoking and exciting all in one day.
It was wonderful to have so many artists who have produced such different work about their experience of fertility problems gathered together under one roof – visual artists, playwrights, photographers, musicians and writers. To have them joined by leading fertility specialists added another context to the discussion and proved to be a fascinating mix.
I chaired the opening session where Jessica was joined by playwright Gareth Farr, whose play The Quiet House, which is about a couple going through IVF, forms a central part of the festival. They spoke about why they’d both wanted to write about their experiences of fertility problems, and about the stigma and taboo which still surrounds infertility and treatment. They set the tone for the day, explaining how the idea for Fertility Fest came about and what they hoped the day would achieve.
I went on to the session about IVF with writer Jo Ind and visual artist Tabitha Moses, where we were joined by Anya Sizer from the London Women’s Clinic. Jo read some passages and a poem she’d written at the time of her fertility problems and treatment, and then Tabitha presented some of her work about fertility – her beautiful embroidered hospital gowns featuring women’s fertility stories and the light-box embryos, pinpricked out using the syringes she used for her IVF. We had a fascinating discussion afterwards about their work, about infertility and treatment, about IVF pregnancy and parenthood and about the compulsion to explore fertility problems through art and writing.
In the afternoon, I was in the session on male fertility with photographer Aaron Deemer, musician and composer Fergus Davidson and fertility expert Professor Allan Pacey. Aaron began by talking about his extraordinary photos of the men’s rooms at fertility clinics, and about his visits to clinics in China and the UK – and explained how the photos have become a way into talking about men and fertility. Fergus gave an incredibly moving talk about his fertility problems and experience of miscarriage, and then played some music he had composed accompanied by pictures. I think most of the audience in the room were in tears by the time he had finished his courageous and honest account, and it made me realise how rare it is to hear a man speaking so openly about the pain of fertility problems and of miscarriage. Aaron and Fergus were joined by Professor Allan Pacey for the discussion afterwards who added a professional view to the debate which gave a forum for a subject so often overlooked. It was great that Dr Robin Hadley, an academic who has researched men’s responses to childlessness, joined us in the audience for the debate.
The final session of the day on the Future of Fertility was started by Amanda Gore from Liminal Space who talked about their most recent project involving the creation of a fictional beauty brand and pop-up shop designed to unlock the facts around egg freezing. Chair Peter Guttridge skilfully led the panel of experts – Professor Geeta Nargund, Professor Jacky Boivin, Dr Gillian Lockwood and Professor Allan Pacey – as they discussed what they felt lay ahead. Egg freezing, synthetic sperm and eggs, a dwindling population and the future of NHS-funded fertility treatment were up for discussion!
The day ended with a production of Gareth Farr’s play The Quiet House. I couldn’t stay for that but am really looking forward to seeing the play in London. There were so many amazing artists and experts, and I just wish I could have attended all the sessions. If you are anywhere near London and haven’t got tickets for Fertility Fest on June 11 – book one right now here before they sell out. It promises to be another truly fascinating day.